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Yes, you can still visit Bob Dole’s 1996 campaign website. Here is its story.



Welcome to Dial Up, Mashable’s most excellent look at technology in the ’90s, from the early days of the World Wide Web to the clunky gadgets that won our hearts. 

It’s Oct. 6, 1996. The night of the first presidential debate between President Bill Clinton and the Republican nominee, Bob Dole. Clinton is the young, popular incumbent who played the saxophone on The Arsenio Hall Show. Dole is a stiff conservative, who at 73 years old looks like he yells at kids to get off his lawn.

But as the debate ends, right after he warns young people against doing drugs, Dole pulls off a first for a presidential candidate in the new internet era: he drops the URL of his campaign website,, on national TV.

A screenshot of the homepage.

A screenshot of the homepage.

Now, 23 years later, you can still experience the website at the original URL in all its 1996 glory. 

To find more, I reached out to designer Rob Kubasko, the man hired to create Dole’s website, and Mike Dec, the man who set out to preserve it. 

The beginning

In the mid-’90s, Kubasko was working as a graphic designer at Arizona State University when he hooked up with the Dole campaign through a mutual connection.

“I had been interested in politics for some time and one of my mentors at ASU knew a person who consulted with the Dole campaign,” Kubasko told me. 

“At that time, there weren’t a lot of experienced web developers out there, so this was still in the infancy of the internet,” said Kubasko, explaining how he partnered with a programmer friend, Vince Salvato, to work on the site under his digital design agency Iguana, Inc.

And that’s how the development of one of the first presidential campaign websites began.

Who was first?

There are of various political campaigns the internet way back in 1992. Bill Clinton, who Dole ended up losing to in ‘96, email, message boards, and listservs during his ’92 campaign. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has been credited with launching the first political campaign website in 1994.

But the first presidential campaign site is a matter of dispute. Some give the credit to Bob Dole, an effort by an older candidate to show he wasn’t out of touch with technology. However, it appears that Bill Clinton beat Dole to the punch in the general election. An archived dates Clinton’s website launch on July 10, 1996. A on the archived Dole website dates the website’s official relaunch for the general election as Aug. 2, 1996. (Once Jack Kemp was picked to be Dole’s running mate, the campaign switched the website over to

Bob Dole knows how to use the internet. Bob Dole set up a website.

Bob Dole knows how to use the internet. Bob Dole set up a website.

Image: Susan Sterner/AP/Shutterstock

“Keep in mind there were TWO Dole sites: one for the primary and one for the general election,” Kubasko told me. “I do believe Clinton had his re-election site up though before the Dole general one, since he had obviously had no challenger in the primary.”

Interestingly, it was actually a third-party that beat both candidates to the punch — and I don’t mean a party of the political kind. Technically, the first presidential campaign website was a parody site created by a couple of pranksters in their 20s.

“Back then, there was no GoDaddy, you’d register almost any name for free and set it up with your name server and you were gold,” says Kubasko. 

Two young techies, Brooks Talley and Mark Pace, had already been spoof websites for a number of the Republican primary contenders, Bob Dole included. According to an archived piece from that year, Talley registered on July, 11, 1995. The Dole campaign didn’t register its domain for the primary,, until Aug. 12. 

The spoof site’s slogan? Bob Dole: “the ripe man for the job.”

“They made it look like a Dole pineapple campaign,” Kubasko recalls. “Not as funny then as it is now.”

Running a website in 1996

Today, running a website is easy. Anyone with a few bucks a month to spare can do it. Obviously, websites receiving lots of traffic, like a major political campaign, need to spend more, but it’s still a rather easy process. Often times, the website manager never even comes into contact with the physical server. Everything is managed for them by a web hosting service.

This was not the case in 1996.

“In the mid-1990s just hosting a site wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is today,” says Kubasko. “We bought a used Sun Sparc2 workstation to host the site and got a T1 line installed in Vince’s bedroom at his parent’s house.” 

“One of the technical hurdles was that the T1 line stunk, it would go down all the time and we’d have to reboot the system,” he continued. “Literally, no joke, this was about as meager as you could imagine because there weren’t a lot of choices back then that weren’t way out of the budget for even a presidential campaign at the time.”

“It was insane by today’s standards,” he said.

“It was insane by today’s standards.”

Managing the content on the website wasn’t any easier. Digital tools like Slack or Trello didn’t exist then. Email was still young and social media wasn’t a thing yet. So they had to get physical. 

“We got all our edits from the campaign by them faxing us hand-drawn edits to printed pages of the site,” explained Kubasko. “I had one of those thermal roll fax machines — the cheapest you could get — and I can remember coming home from my day job at ASU and finding my bedroom overrun by dozens of faxed pages every night. It was ridiculous.”

The plug heard across the nation

Rob’s fax-filled bedroom seemed worth it as the Dole team pushed the website as an important part of the campaign.

“Even though I think the campaign saw the site as ‘something we have to do to look like we get technology,’ they really embraced it,” he said. “They really saw this as a way to get people to think of Senator Dole as more than just the ‘old guy’ in the race.”

And, for 1996, the website’s features were fairly revolutionary. It had up-to-date content and animated GIFs. There’s a section on the site, Dole Interactive, where visitors could create their own buttons and posters, take quizzes, play crossword puzzles, and even send customized electronic postcards via email. 

“The last one of which was incredibly innovative and had we known about patent law, would have patented the hell out of most of these technologies,” explained Kubasko. 

“Years later I was asked to defend a top five internet site in a patent dispute based on the postcards alone. When they did their research they found we had basically invented this and I helped them succeed in their defense.”

The website’s most historic moment, however, came at that presidential debate. 

“This election is important. I ask for your support. I ask for your help. If you really want to get involved, just tap into my homepage: www.dolekemp96 org” Dole in the final moments of the debate, forgetting the final “dot” before “org.” (You can watch the moment at around 1 hour and 30 minutes in the above.) Bill Clinton even lets out a chuckle after Dole plugs the site.

Much like the rush to register matching domain names after Joe Biden’s text message number at the most recent Democratic primary debate, there were in 1996 ready to take advantage of those mistyping the web address.

Regardless, Kubasko believes the namedrop made their choice for the general campaign domain name “famous.”

“To this day, it might still be the greatest internet namedrop ever by a politician,” he told me.

Thanks to that plug, Dole’s campaign “a record-breaking day” of about 2 million total hits on the campaign’s homepage. Luckily, Dole’s digital team had its previously mentioned server situation by then and were able to handle the traffic.

Archiving internet history

Today, in the year 2019, anyone with an internet connection can go to and see the site as it was nearly 23 years ago. 

Dole’s original general election website is archived thanks to Mike Dec, who runs . Dec’s website contains archived presidential campaign speeches, bumper sticker images, brochure scans, and even screenshots of political campaign websites as far back as the primary candidates who ran against Dole in 1996.

But, the working archived Dole website is the main attraction.

“I wanted to preserve the history of the first websites,” Dec said when I asked him why he maintains an archive of the site. “I contacted Bob Dole’s office in Washington, D.C., and the Dole Library in Kansas and told them what I was doing, but I don’t think they really understood.”

Unfortunately, Dole’s office told Dec that they didn’t have anything pertaining to the website archived. But luckily, Mike did. 

“I had part of it archived,” he told me. “I had saved some of it on my own back in 1996, so I had the files and I kind of rebuilt it from the graphics.”

Looking at the site, you’ll see that there are a number a broken internal links, so some of it has been lost to time. But, the website looks as it did in 1996 and many pages do indeed work.

Today, people can also visit an archive of the Clinton/Gore campaign’s 1996 website, maintained by the American Museum of Moving Image. However, Mike has something that the museum does not, something that sets the Dole website archive apart from the rest: the campaign’s original domain name.

“I saw that the was available one day and snapped it up,” Dec said. “The original used by the Clinton/Gore campaign is owned by someone else and I’ve tried to purchase it, but they want too much money, so it remains in their hands.” 

“And now the price will probably go up when you publish your article.”

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